Events such as the Grenfell fire reveal the best of us. But if we truly have 'More in Common', we must fight inequality before such tragedies take placeby Emma Burnell / June 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
This weekend, people up and down the country will be coming together to remember Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was shot and killed by a man in the name of his extreme right wing beliefs. At The Great Get Together, friends and neighbours of all politics will come together in Jo’s name to celebrate what we have in common.
Jo was killed at a difficult time for our country. We were at the height of an extremely divisive referendum that split the country almost exactly in half. Families fell out, neighbours fought, friends stopped speaking. Since that time, particularly on the left, it has felt like this mode has been constant, with the Labour leadership contest that followed the referendum creating further splits, even between people who had campaigned side by side to remain in the EU. The recent election that followed a year later has helped bring Labour Party back together—but equally demonstrated that we remain a very divided country.
This is perhaps not surprising. We live in turbulent times and we have felt increasingly under threat. World politics have rarely been so unstable, stuck as we are with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin playing out their macho insecurities on the world stage; the three-dimensional chess game taking countless lives in Syria and other Isis-controlled parts of the Middle East, and the ensuing refugee crisis creating political havoc across Europe. Marine Le Pen may have been soundly beaten in France this time, but the fact that she made the run off at all should frighten us all.
Britain sometimes overplays our sense of the Blitz spirit but actually, this year it has been shown in force. Terror attacks in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge have created huge outpourings of togetherness, the kind of which would have delighted Jo. Equally, the response to the horrors we have seen in Grenfell Tower have shown a strength of community and a resilience that we can, and should, be proud of.
Jo’s message—which was delivered in her maiden speech to Parliament, and which has become her legacy—is that we have more in common than that which divides us. At moments of crisis, like this week, we are good at coming together, at exemplifying this. Again and again, we donate our time, money, goods—really, anything we can—to help those who are suffering. Our humanity shines like a beacon in the darkness of such tragic events.
But while ‘More in Common’ is a great communitarian response to a crisis, it must also be a political choice. Jo used those words in a political speech, as a politician, in the heart of our democracy. The residents of Grenfell are angry because they do not feel that they have a great deal in common with their wealthy neighbours in their borough of contrasts. They do not feel they are treated the same, valued the same or have parity of esteem. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I will delight in celebrating Jo this weekend and enjoy breaking bread, samosas and bagels with my neighbours. But on Monday I will return to fighting the political fight to ensure that sense of ‘More in Common’ is represented in our laws, our regulations, or distribution of wealth and services. I will join with everyone in holding this government to account in its promises to put people before profit to ensure they aren’t allowed to get away with empty soundbites.
I know we will all continue to help where and how we can when there is a crisis like Grenfell. But we must also dedicate our energy long term to ensuring the parity of esteem for those in social housing that means corners are not cut when it comes to their safety. If we truly believe that we have ‘More in Common’, we have to prove it before such events—not afterwards.